The first time that my coach asked me to babysit his kids I was extremely nervous. Have you ever thought of all of the horrible things that could go wrong when you are watching the offspring of a very important person in your life? I did. In about two point five seconds that followed me answering, “Of course I can!” The best thing about the situation was that they were young enough that they’d probably want to “hang out” with me and would have an early bedtime.
My charges were two of the most adorable kiddos named Kate and Cole; Cole was 8 and Kate 3 or 4. They were highly intelligent kids; their parents had done a phenomenal job of raising them to be mature and responsible at such a young age. I felt my confidence growing the more that I thought about it. Their father, my coach, had always explained the ultimate game strategy is that whenever you are going into an uncomfortable or unknown situation you do what you know. You do what works. You do what YOU are comfortable with to combat the situation. What did I know best? Food. I have been cooking for as long as I can remember and one of my favorite family dishes is Friday Night Pizza.
For as long as I can remember Friday dinner has always belonged to pizza. Pizza has such a bad taboo around it in today’s society of “take & bake” and “5 Dollar Deal” pizzas that are greasy and disgusting. I can’t even eat pizzas at restaurants because of the classy, family dish that we all made together every Friday as a family. It didn’t matter if it was at my grandparents’ house, my parents, or one of my aunts or uncles; no matter what household, it’s the same pizza being made.
I showed up at the house to babysit with my weapon of choice; everything you could need to make pizza! My coach’s wife looked at me a little strangely when I showed up with a grocery bag full of ingredients; apparently, I was the first babysitter who had decided to make food for the kids. She was in a hurry to get to wherever she had to go and as the door closed behind her with finality, I felt like I was getting locked into a jail. I put a big, nervous smile on my face and turned around to see Kate and Cole solemnly staring at me.
“Are you guys hungry?” I asked tentatively, not knowing what I would do if they said they weren’t.
Cole shrugged his shoulders up and his eyes got as big as the cans of olives that were tucked carefully into the bag in my arm.
“Would you guys like to make some pizza?” I asked, taking their noncommittal response as a highway for trucking onward with my pizza-making plan.
“We’re gonna order pizza?” Kate asked, her little voice getting very high pitched on the second syllable or piz-za.
“No silly! We’re gonna make it together!” I triumphantly patted the bag.
They seemed kind of sold on the idea, I figured.
Together we all washed up and found everything that we would need in the kitchen. I was that terrible babysitter who taught the kiddos how to blow bubbles out of their hands while washing up. They weren’t my kids; I wouldn’t have to deal with them blowing bubbles after that night! Together we laid out all of the ingredients and we got to work.
First thing was first: the liquid base (6 tablespoons water, 6 tablespoons olive oil, ¾ cup of milk). I got the kiddos pumped up as they counted out each tablespoon out loud. Then the bowl was placed in the microwave for 45 seconds; I just needed it a touch over lukewarm when I stuck my finger in the mix. The next ingredient is the yeast, about a tablespoon and a half. I am really terrible about the yeast, I just eyeball sprinkle enough in so that it covers the top of the liquid. I let Kate very slowly and carefully stir it until it was mixed.
I placed the bowl to the side for a second, just to let it rest and get the yeast to start activating. I took Kate and Cole through each of the ingredients that I had brought. That is the beauty of making pizza at home; you only use the ingredients that you want to eat. As they debated over writing down a list of what ingredients they wanted (I thought it was a good way to incorporate some school) I added flour until a dough consistency was formed. I placed the kitchen towel over the top of the bowl and placed it inside the warm microwave to give it a chance to rise. The longer you let it sit the fluffier your crust will be. A lot of pizza dough, and this recipe is no different, can even be refrigerated for a day or two before you actually make the pizza.
We made a chain assembly line by the sink. I would open the cans and then Cole would dump the contents into the strainer. Then he would hand the strainer to Kate who would put the topping into a bowl. I showed them how to save the pineapple juice from the can that we then mixed with Cranberry juice from the fridge to drink with our pizza later (for adults you can add Malibu Coconut Rum and ice to make an alcoholic beverage).
I gave each of the kids a section of dough, just enough to make their own individual pizza. They took turns rolling and patting the dough into a circle in Cole’s case and an artistic dough-graffiti shape for Kate. I then solemnly requested them to step back and roll their sleeves up; it was about to get messy. They gasped in excitement as I squirted ketchup all over their dough. They didn’t need to be told twice to spread the ketchup around their respective pizzas with their little hands. I then sent them to the sink to wash up and while they did that I quickly dashed on some salt, pepper, minced garlic, minced onion, and ground oregano to create homemade pizza sauce!
When they came back they covered their pizzas in mozzarella cheese and then I let them put whatever toppings they wanted to on their pizzas; it was theirs after all! The usual toppings that I will pick up are sliced olives, pineapple chunks, pepperoni, leftover ground beef or sausage, Canadian bacon, sliced chicken, and whatever else is leftover in the fridge (one time I put a whole bag of spinach between the sauce and cheese layers just to get rid of it; no one even knew it was there!). When the masterpieces were ready I told the kids to wash up again while I popped the pizzas into the 375 degrees Fahrenheit preheated oven for about 18-25 minutes. If you make the dough into one big pizza I usually let it go for more around the 22-28 minutes depending. To have a flatter crust you can get your anger out by viciously stabbing the dough randomly even and then bake for about 10 minutes before putting the sauce and toppings on. I don’t suggest doing this if you are making it with kids because then you have to make sure they don’t burn themselves on the casserole dish, baking pan, or stoneware that you are using.
I placed a Disney movie in the VCR and put the kids in front of it. I used this time to get everything quickly cleaned up and put away while the kids were busy. Since I finished so quickly I whipped up some chocolate chip cookies that I put into the oven as soon as I pulled the pizza out. I let the pizza cool before I sliced each of the kiddos’ individual pizzas and brought them to the dinner table with the juice cocktail we had made. By the time the movie was over we had warm and gooey chocolate chip cookies and ice cream. What could be better than a delicious pizza, juice, chocolate chip cookies, ice cream, some very happy people and a classic movie? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
I was never asked to babysit for my coach again. Apparently, the kids had held them to the same standard of fun cooking and they didn’t appreciate that I had opened their eyes to it! Don’t worry! I think that they were mainly joking but Cole and Kate would ask me at every basketball game afterwards if we were going to make Friday Night Pizza again someday.